After some early money from the punters the Danny O’Brien-trained Shamexpress has firmed into equal favourite with fellow four-year-old Lankan Rupee to win Saturday’s Newmarket Handicap 2014.
One of two elite level features running at Flemington Racecourse this weekend, the $1 million Group 1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) yesterday drew a final field of 15 exciting sprinters.
Updated Newmarket Handicap betting markets have now also been released with a tight three-horse battle for top spot.
Currently it is the nicely-drawn O’Reilly stallion Shamexpress (barrier three) and Redoute’s Choice gelding Lankan Rupee out wide in barrier 13 sharing $4.60 favouritisim with the punters.
Shamexpress returns this Melbourne Festival of Racing to defend their Newmarket Handicap crown having beaten home the Peter Moody-trained Moment Of Change by just a short head to take it out last year.
They were then sent for a testing European campaign where they failed to step up.
Upon returning in the spring they were ninth to Buffering first-up, albeit beaten under two lengths, before improving with their second to the same Brisbane hero in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic.
This prep Shamexpress resumed on February 15 at Flemington and finished a half length off Snitzerland in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m), an effort they are tipped to improve on when they step up in distance here.
Lankan Rupee hasn’t got quite as much experience as their noted rival but they have twice been tested at Group 1 level.
The first was as a juvenile in November of 2012 where they ran eighth to Nechita in the Coolmore Stud Stakes.
Flying under the radar for the next year they caught the eye again this spring just gone with back-to-back stakes wins in Melbourne including a two and a half length victory over Hot Snitzel in the Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield.
Their first run this time in was a beauty as they put an easy four lengths on their closest rivals in a methodical Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m) victory.
They were away well again next start hitting the lead over the final 200m and holding on to post their first Group 1 triumph in a tidy Oakleigh Plate effort over 1100m on February 22.
The other major player in the latest Newmarket Handicap odds at $4.80 is then Samaready in gate nine with Craig Newitt retaining his association on Mick Price’s star mare.
A four-year-old daughter of boom sire More Than Ready Samaready is herself a dual Group 1 winner (2012 Blue Diamond Stakes, 2013 Moir Stakes).
She is second-up here, the same as she was when putting four lengths on Buffering to win the Moir, following a solid third upon resuming in the Black Caviar at the track.
The only other single figure chance in the field at $9.50 is then last year’s runner-up Moment Of Change shooting for their third Group 1 win on the trot.
A champion Barley A Moment five-year-old, Moment Of Change narrowly defeated Eurozone in the CF Orr Stakes on February 8 before coming back a fortnight later to do it again this time over Sertorius in the Futurity.
While Moment Of Change is flying and comes into the race off some hard-to-fault form they do have the 58kg top weight to overcome compared to Lankan Rupee (56.5kg), Samaready (56kg) and Shamexpress (56kg).
The next best in betting just outside of these is then 52.5kg light weight Knoydart ($10) in barrier four with Tim Clark aboard the Peter Snowden-trained gelding.
This will be the More Than Ready four-year-old’s second Group 1 assignment after their fast finishing third to Lankan Rupee in the Oakleigh.
Also in the mix at juicer odds are then the likes of Cranbourne galloper Unpretentious ($15) and Tony Gollan’s Oakleigh Plate runner-up Spirit Of Boom ($16) ready to improve.
See below for the full Newmarket Handicap 2014 fixed win prices available now online at Ladbrokes.com.au who will be offering an exclusive Newmarket Handicap betting offer to their customers shortly!